The Dilijan Arts Observatory, an experimental and interdisciplinary think-tank, intends to develop new models for art and higher education. This international event, the first of its kind in Armenia, will gather artists, cultural historians, and environmental scientists from 14 countries, meeting between August 22–September 11, 2016.
Dilijan, an ancient spa town and mountain retreat, once attracted the composers Dmitri Shostakovich and Benjamin Britten. Now international curator and anthropologist Clémentine Deliss, director of the Weltkulturen Museum in Frankfurt, will draw an international group of historians and experts -- a third of whom are Armenian -- to undertake local and diverse fieldwork. Artisanal crafts, graphic design, music composition, astronomy, Soviet architecture, and botany are amongst the varied topics to be explored. "I hope that our dialogue will produce new models and prototypes for the future,” Deliss stated.
Armenian curator Vigen Galstyan said, in an article published by The Art Newspaper, "It is hoped the Dilijan Arts Observatory will come up with ideas that will have a real impact on the region, which it so sorely needs."
The Observatory will be headquartered in the former Impuls electronics factory in Dilijan, a prime example of Soviet industrial architecture. 4000 employees worked here under the Soviet Defense Ministry until it was privatized.
On September 10 and 11, a two-day public event in Dilijan will present the results of the think-tank findings among celebrations including an all-night symphony, culinary festivities, performances, and exhibitions. The longer-term outcome will be a traveling exhibition related to the think-tank's output: first at the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin (November 2017), then at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris (Summer 2018).
The Dilijan Art Initiative was founded by philanthropists Veronika Zonabend and Ruben Vardanyan, as part of the IDeA (Initiatives for Development of Armenia) Charitable Foundation, to create a framework for Dilijan's cultural development, and for the cultural development of Armenia at large. Its mission is to turn Dilijan into a cultural center for art, research, and progressive thinking. While principally focused on contemporary art, the initiative aims to change people's lives on a local scale, while enriching the reputation of Armenia (and the entire post-Soviet sphere) at an international level.
Spotlighting work by artists from the Armenian diaspora, the Initiative previously supported the National Pavilion of the Republic of Armenia at the 56th Venice Biennale -- which was awarded the Golden Lion, the highest possible honor for a national pavilion -- as well as the Armenian program at the 14th Istanbul Biennial, devoted to the research of Armenian history and trauma in contemporary Turkey.